In his first year at the helm of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim has put together a vision for wiping out extreme poverty and fighting inequality by 2030, begun to shift the Bank's health policy, and threw the Bank's influence behind ambitious efforts to combat climate change. Very promising.
A focused vision is precisely what the World Bank needs today, with an increasingly volatile global economy and dwindling sources of aid. But only time will tell if the Bank -- often its own worst enemy -- and Kim are unified in their commitment to deliver on the 2030 vision.
The World Bank's mission was always about ending poverty -- except when it wasn't. Whole decades were lost to "structural adjustment policies," which forced on cuts in social spending, hiring freezes on doctors and teachers, fees to basic health care, and worsened poverty in many developing countries. As a development expert, Kim recognized that the Bank needed to re-focus on eradicating extreme poverty, reducing inequality, and curbing climate change. Let's hope he gets it right.
We wish Kim's vision was more ambitious on some points. For instance, instead of just "monitoring" the growth of the world's bottom 40 percent, the Bank should find ways to ensure the income of the bottom 40 percent grows faster than the top 60 percent, and implement policies to fight inequality as an impediment to ending poverty.
Our expectations are high. Kim has made some promising first steps. The question is whether his ongoing actions will ultimately match his plans and words - whether he gets results on poverty eradication. The clock is ticking.
Kim's powerful statements at the World Health Organization annual meeting in May signaled welcome and important changes in the Bank's approach to health policy. Prior to Kim's arrival, the Bank actively promoted user fees for health care. After Dr. Kim's arrival, the Bank took on the politically prickly truth that poor people in developing countries won't get full access to health care unless it's free of charge, signaling a clean break with its past policies.
Most noticeably, the Bank has thrown much more weight behind efforts to combat climate change under Kim, and for good reason. In a major report last year, the Bank warned that a 4-degree rise in the planet's temperature would have devastating impacts and plunge more people into poverty. The report has been hugely influential -- many in the development community and beyond cite it, and many are positively surprised that Kim has put climate at the core of his vision.
Closely related, the Bank's reported new energy plan is also very promising. It is great to see the bank acknowledging that failing to move away from fossils fuels will have enormous environmental costs that ultimately will be born by the poorest and most vulnerable.
The world's poorest people depend on their land to survive, but so many small-holder farmers in developing countries have been kicked off their lands. In fact, 500 million acres--enough to feed a billion people -- have been sold off over the last decade in a mad, unjust land grab.
With Oxfam's urging, Kim made a high profile public statement on land rights, highlighting the risks which come with big land deals. Under his leadership, the Bank has agreed to review land rights this year as part of their annual review of rules that govern their activities -- an important step.
Only 365 days down and already Kim has put forth some good ideas and made a lot of promising statements, but an implementation plan is still to come. Success or failure going forward will hinge on whether he can mobilize the Bank and if donors and world leaders have the political will to get behind his laudable vision. Results are what he will be judged on: what he can deliver for the poorest in the world.